Washtenaw schools millage fails; now what?

Hard choices remain ahead, made even harder by the failure of the Washtenaw Schools Millage. But our real problem, highlighted by this campaign, is the spread of a corrosive world-view in which schools are assumed to be parasites on taxpayers rather than a common investment in the future. This cannot be changed quickly, but change it must, for the sake of our children and our community.

It's September 10th: do you know where your school's funding is?

Reposted from Michigan Parents for Schools (mipfs.org).
Our lawmakers are once again at a crossroads, figuring out how to manage the tremendous decline in revenues for public services, including schools. Time is running out.

Constant readers will notice the shortage of news on the state K-12 education budget in recent months. There is a good reason: there hasn’t been any.

Schools are the foundation of our future

This article was published in the Other Voices series of op-ed columns by the Ann Arbor News on Sunday, June 14, 2009. The version posted on the Mlive.com web site is available here.

The school budget news from Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, and other communities in Washtenaw County is disturbing, and for good reason. School officials say that in the next two years we will all be driving over the edge of a “funding cliff” that threatens to injure our public schools for years to come. Some school districts are on the brink of failure, while others are having to cut teaching staff for the first time in recent memory. The depth of the coming crisis varies for each district, but the crisis is coming just the same. The question is, should we try to do something about it? Should we the people, the taxpayers, be worried?

The answer should be a resounding “YES!”

Impact of Senate cuts on WISD districts

[Cross-posted from Michigan Parents for Schools]
The Senate Fiscal Agency has published estimates of the impact of cuts included in the Senate’s school aid budget bill, with detail for each district and public school academy (charter school) in the state. To get a copy of the full document, you can find it here.

As part of our Project Washtenaw effort, we’d like to highlight some of the potential consequences to districts in the Washtenaw ISD. The WISD includes districts with a wide range of characteristics, so the impact here can say a lot about what is happening state wide.

AAPS Budget discussions

Top district officials held open public meetings last week to talk about school funding and the AAPS budget.

Update: A copy of the district’s presentation, and a place to submit questions online, can be found on the AAPS web site.

Attendance was modest in the extreme, and details of any potential cuts were few, but it was a good opportunity to explain to citizens what has been happening with school funding and where the district finds itself today. Even before the Governor’s proposed budget cuts (see story on MIPFS site soon), the AAPS was projecting a deficit of nearly $6 million on a budget of $185 million that would continue the current level of services. While the Governor’s proposed $59 per pupil cut (nearly $1 million in Ann Arbor’s case) is probably moot because of the Federal stimulus funding, the district may still face another $60 per pupil cut in state funding in a separate provision that only applies to higher-spending districts.

Board of Education begins budget process

Disagreements reflect broader splits over school finance

At a special study session tonight, AAPS Superintendent Todd Roberts and Deputy Superintendent Robert Allen gave a preliminary briefing on the school system’s 2009-10 budget. Good news was in short supply, though progress has been made on several fronts and Federal stimulus money may yet come through to help schools. But, absent Federal action, the district’s leadership is projecting a budget deficit of just under $6 million for next year. Without any other changes, the projected trend continues with a $8.74 million deficit in 2010-11 and an even $12 million deficit in 2011-12. They need to close the gap and will be looking for community involvement in making the hard choices.

What can I do?

Wondering what you can do right now to help keep Ann Arbor’s public schools the kind of place where you want to send your kids? We have a few ideas… Feel free to pass this along!

Trail leads back to funding

In the discussions that followed the Ann Arbor News’ series on teacher pay, a particularly useful contribution was made by AAPS teacher, AAEA activist (and contributor to this site) Brit Satchwell. His two-part series of op-ed pieces in the News give an overview from an educator’s perspective, and in Satchwell’s case, the perspective of someone who has been fighting for school funding for a long time. At base, he makes a case that nearly everything we want out of our schools, including efficiency, circles back around to adequate and stable funding.

Teacher Pay in the news

Regardless of what you think of it, the recent series in the Ann Arbor News on salary levels for teachers and other school employees has broken open a topic that has to be addressed as we work to build community support for our schools. There are a lot of misunderstandings, myths and suspicions that surround the topic of how much our teachers are paid, and these things really need to see the light of day.

Stepping up as a community: news from the Education Foundation

There are a number of ways to cope with the funding crisis our schools find themselves in, and one way is to come together as a community and help support important programs with private donations. The AAPS Education Foundation is just starting a major initiative to expand their fundraising and granting capacity, with the aim of making significant contributions to the curriculum at all levels of the public schools. They say their aim is to “turn taxpayers into philanthropists.” Since we have so little control over public funding for our public schools, entities like the Ed Foundation can come to play an important role in taking the fate of our schools back into our own hands.